How to Write a Great Email Subject Line

I’m teaching the fine art of crafting email subject lines, and an interesting rule emerges:

Write subject lines that one cannot interchange with any other subject line.

We open this kind of email.  This kind of email intrigues and entices.  This kind of email rises to our awareness atop a pile of the 100 you might have received today. 

In other words, be ridiculously specific in as few words as possible.  Gone are the vague and useless email subject lines like “Quick Question” or “Two Things” or “Meeting Request” or even “Good News!”  Instead, I’m learning to make a mark by being ridiculously specific. Thank you, David Shipley and Will Schwalbe, writers of Send: The Essential Guide to Email for Office and Home for alerting me that these email subjects accomplish nothing.

So my subject lines zoom in.  A specific subject line clearly defines and clearly identifies what you want and need from a reader.

Instead of “Quick Question,” I’m writing, “May I have the spanakotyropita recipe?”  

I’m taking my time, narrowing my focus, and asking what I want and need with ridiculous specificity.  It’s good for emailing and for living. 

Journal:  Are you more likely to open an email with a ridiculously specific subject line?

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  1. Here I am again! I so love your topics, Heather. YES. My husband taught me this tip: when emailing someone a message less than a dozen words long, the courteous and efficient solution is to simply put the entire message into the subject line itself, ending with EOM (end of message). The email recipient never even has to open the email; they read the whole message in the subject line.